Tag Archives: Puzzle Games

Antichamber (PC, Mac, and Linux)

logo

Why are there always facilities filled with puzzles and tests? Between Amnesia, Portal, Mondo Medicals, The Talos Principle, Quantum Conundrum, Tiny Brains, and all the rest how many puzzle filled testing facilities are there? Not to say that Antichamber is exactly like those games but it’s a weird trope that keeps popping up. You’re a faceless operativ, test subject, or something who’s got to solve strange time and space bending puzzles as they attempt to find the center of, or escape — maybe both, the Antichamber.

History

Antichamber was developed by Alexander Bruce and it was a tumultuous creation. Not tumultuous in terms of risk of being shut down or running our of money or something. Lemme put it this way, Antichamber’s development started in 2006 as an arena combat game. It gradually shifted and morphed over time into a single player puzzle game. One of the things that really inspired Bruce to make the change from combat to puzzles was a simple coding error that resulted in impossible geometries.

Antichamber was released on January 31st, 2013. It’s competition was DMC: Devil May Cry (XBox 360, PS3, and PC), Dead Space 3 (PS3, PC, and XBox 360), and Aliens: Colonial Marines (PS3, PC, and XBox 360).

Experiences

Antichamber is a trip, like a straight up drug trip. It’s filled with impossible spaces, bizarre objects, and mind bending puzzles and trials. Unfortunately this creates a situation where getting from A to B is mind boggling and can be incredibly frustrating. Combine that with the game’s two hour time limit and it engenders a lot of stress about getting to the right place at the right time. Another interesting thing about Antichamber lies within the design of most puzzle games. In most games as the player gains access to more verbs and more ways to interact with the puzzle space the game gets more difficult but instead Antichamber becomes more simple as the player’s ability to change their surroundings grows.

Gameplay

Antichamber is a puzzle game that likes messing with the player’s head and revealing more mechanics than meets the eye. The puzzles start off by teaching the player simply how to navigate the bizarre and non-Euclidian space of the Antichamber. At any time they can hit escape and go back to the main room which allows them to teleport to any room or puzzle they have already solved — paradoxically, the player gets the puzzle’s hint after they solve it. Unfortunately I made the mistake of assuming that the map was actually useful, that its paths were truly representative of what the map was like — and it is. But because the paths are geometrically impossible the map is less than useful — the teleport function is incredibly handy though.

20170115002026_1

This is not the exception, it is a regular occurrence.

Eventually the player finds a gun like tool that can capture and deploy certain blocks in the environment. These blocks can trigger switches and make good building tools. Then another tool that can capture and deploy blocks very quickly. Then another that can beckon blocks and all blocks connected to that one. And then a final tool that can eat blocks and then spawn nearly infinite blocks radiating from one. I only bring these powers up because I found myself frustrated by not knowing whether I had the tools necessary to complete a certain puzzle. The game attempts to make this clear by color coding the blocks and tool as if to say, ‘do you see red blocks but you haven’t gotten the red tool? Then you can’t handle it yet’. But I was able to solve a puzzle with blocks of a tool I hadn’t gotten yet, and when I did that once I figured the sky was the limit and then later realized my cunning success had simply been a fluke.

20170116135851_1

Moving blocks and breaking chains is all well and good but some of these are just wizardry.

The Gush

This game has got impressive visuals. The visual style aside, the things in the game simply look strange. The lighting also gives everything around it an otherworldly air. Any time those colors lights were around my eyes were peeled for secrets or something strange coming up.

20170115000817_1

One of the areas is akin to a museum, filled with strange objects and shapes.

The ambient music and noise serves both as a calming agent that kept me from losing my shit in some of the more frustrating moments and as the occasional clue to puzzles. Certain areas have certain music so if the music changed, I knew that whatever I had done had triggered a teleportation effect, for instance.

 

The Kvetch

There’s no narration, there’s often no clear indication of whether something is helping or not, it’s the player teaching themself about the rules of the world. And that’s all well and good but then we get to this thing.

20170116152620_1

This bizarre black floating series of shifting cubes emits whispering murmurs and floats around ominously near new tools. I was under the impression that it was something that was menacing and was meant to be avoided. Apparently it’s supposed to intrigue the player because reaching it serves as the overarching goal. I just feel like it gives off bad vibes.

There are a few puzzles that I got stuck on and would not have been able to complete if I hadn’t looked up the solution. Most of them involved situations regarding things I didn’t even know the world was capable of. Bizarre tricks and peculiarities of the game’s rules that are neither obvious nor intuitive.

20170115001718_1

There came points, especially near the end, when I thought, “What the hell do I do now?”

The Verdict

I got a little frustrated with it at times, but some of that’s me being bad at puzzle games and some of it’s genuine difficulty in learning certain bizarre tricks.. As such I would recommend Antichamber to anyone who knows what non-Euclidean geometry is and loves to warp their brain. I hate to say it and I don’t want to pull hourage but I got three and a half hours of fun — and thirty minutes of pure frustration — out of Antichamber and with a $20 price tag it’s a little steep for my tastes. With Portal 1 sitting at $10 and Portal 2 at $20 I feel like it would be most satisfying to pick up Antichamber at $15 when it goes on sale next.

Next Week: Super Meat Boy

Machinarium (PC, Playstation Vita, PS3, IPad, and Android)

machinarium-wallpaper-cover-1920x1200

Introduction

The game opens with a city in the background that looks like the Emerald Palace was made of junk. A flying machine drops its payload of refuse into a pile unceremoniously. One of these “scrap” pieces is our eager hero. He’s a little worse for wear but he’s got a mission to do and that means getting back into the city — which won’t be easy, I guess he left his ID in his other pants’ pocket. Walk, adjust your height, and solve puzzles to find out why our little robot friend got dumped from his home and why he needs to get back in.

History

Machinarium was created by Amanita Design which is a group of seven Czechs who like to make point and click adventures. The game was originally released on PC but Amanita wanted to expand to other platforms. Machinarium was set to be released on Microsoft’s XBox Live arcade but after some sort of debacle Amanita decided to ditch Microsoft and turn to Sony instead.

Machinarium is one of the most pirated games in history. Amanita sent out a survey asking how many people had purchased the game. The data they got back suggested that only 15% of people who had played it actually purchased the game. At this point Amanita kindly asked pirates to pay for the game and incentivized it by lowering the price to $5 but it wasn’t very successful. What really bothers me is that Amanita design has three free similar games on their website but some people weren’t willing to dish out pocket change for one.

Machinarium was released on October 16th 2009. It’s competition was Borderlands (PS3, XBox 360), Brutal Legend (PS3, XBox 360), and Eufloria (PC).

Nostalgia

The first time I saw this game was as a Demo that a friend was playing. I saw it’s Oddworldesque design and was enchanted. I wanted to know what this world of machines was, how it worked, and how it came to be. I also wanted to know the story of the little robot he was controlling. Whether he was actually remotely controlling it or was just a player to its character ie. was there a human controlling the robot in the context of the game? I wouldn’t end up playing it until 2011 but it was always there in the back of my head. I would ask people what they remembered about that point and click adventure game with the robot but no one could remember what I was talking about.

machinarium-wallpaper-plaza-1920x1200

And then I got to see the scrap city for what it was… kinda run down but brimming with character.

Gameplay

The game is a point and click adventure that focuses on puzzle solving. So you’ll be picking things up and rubbing them on other things to try to get something to work to open a door or something. Our little robot friend here has a hollow torso so he’s always got room to put things in himself– although I’m now confused to how he’s supposed to function.

1010936_10151544572994118_553513406_n

BTW, there are dolls of this guy available for purchase and they’re also hollow.

If you get a little lost you can ask the robot for a vague idea of what he’s trying to do. These hints, as well as the rest of the “dialogue” in the game, are expressed through animated thought bubbles– or thought bubbles of animation. If the puzzle is a really stumping you then you can look up a walkthrough or use the walkthrough that’s in the game. There’s a notebook in the upper right hand corner that has drawings of solutions to every puzzle in the game. If that sounds cheap then I should mention the Galaga-esqu lock that holds the notebook shut.

Our little robot does have one useful ability, he can alter his height. He can stretch his torso of holding to grow short or tall. That being said, he can’t walk as fast as his normal height when he’s tall or short. Sometimes speed is an important factor and if that’s the case then you’re gonna want this guy to be in the best running shape by returning his torso shape to normal.

growing-and-shrinking

It’s a really useful ability… it’s also fucking adorable.

The Gush

The art design of this game is fucking beautiful. The city feels alive with colorful robots living out their robot existences. It’s cute and interesting to try and figure out how this robot city differs and is similar to our own.

machinarium_city

I don’t know what’s in that tower but I wanna live in it.

The music is marvelously atmospheric. Each area has its own music that creates an ambiance that fades into the background when you’re solving a puzzle and then comes forward again when it’s time to travel. Well, the music for the most intense puzzle is much more in-your-face but I thought it was appropriate for the situation.

Even the most fiendish puzzle in this game can be brute forced. If you don’t know the answer and are too proud to look it up then you can just try to do everything possible until it works. That being said the puzzles are pretty easy to get the idea of, they’re sometimes just difficult to execute.

All the dialogue is communicated through the pencil animations in voice bubbles. There isn’t a single word of spoken dialogue and I think that’s super cool. It conveys the plot so well, I never felt like I was lost.

20091029_pc_machinarium_josef_bubble

The Kvetch

Sometimes it’s unclear what the robot is capable of. Sometimes he can jump higher or farther than I thought he would be able to. Sometimes he could pick something up or move something that I didn’t think he was strong enough to move. Those are just sort of pitfalls that go along with a game about robots, I guess.

Every puzzle game has “That Fucking Puzzle” and Machinarium is no exception. I guarantee that one of the puzzles in this game will be “That Fucking Puzzle” for you. Mine looks something like this.

pipe-puzzle

the goal is to shut off water to the first, third, fourth, and last valves as marked at the top. You accomplish this by fastening three wrenches to the pipes at the plus looking parts. It’s harder than it looks.

The Verdict

I think this game is awesome. I’ve had nothing but a good time with it. You can get it at Amanita Design’s website, http://amanita-design.net/ or by checking it out on Steam. I found it to be super fun and really interesting. It’s got solid art, music, puzzles, and story. It’s all good here.

Next Week: Borderlands